Submitted by Juan Conatz on April 18, 2015

There was a great deal of organizing activity this year. Speakers such as J.P. Thompson, C.B. Ellis, Fred Thompson, Arthur Boose and Ben Fletcher traveled throughout the country holding meetings and giving talks. The I.W.W. was active in Detroit, New York City, Cleveland, Bridgeport, Conn., Toledo, Spokane, Portland, Ore., Port Arthur, Ontario and Vancouver, B.C. as well as in many other places. Often their efforts met with strong opposition. In Flint, Michigan, for example, a meeting scheduled in September was canceled when Fred Thompson (Editor of the Industrial Worker since 1946) was arrested. The I.W.W. believed that his arrest had been instigated by officials of General Motore, who apparently were much concerned at that time about the possibility of their workers joining the I.W.W. The Flint newspapers referred to Mr. Thompson as an alien and former convict. They claimed that he had a record in California for "gang syndicalism” and that he was a dangerous jail bird and agitator.

In Toledo, Ohio in the latter part of August, an I.W.W. open air meeting conducted by speakers named Korenblatt and De Witt was broken up by a crowd of American Legionnaires who were holding a convention in Toledo at the time. Violence was narrowly averted.1

Several meetings were broken up in New York City by the police before the "Wobblies”t with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union and a capable lawyer were able to put a stop to the practice. Free speech fights were waged frequently in the vicinity of Boulder Dam, Yakima and Port Arthur.2

During this year the I.W.W., together with other liberal and radical groups, were working zealously on behalf of W.B. Jones and W.H. Hightower and the other Kentucky miners involved in the famous Harland county trials.3 These men had been convicted of murder for the slaying of Jim Daniels, Otto Lee and Howard Jones in the bloody “Battle of Evarts”, in May 1931, The I.W.W. contends that the above three men were “tgun thugs" hired by the mine operators to prevent unionism. The whole affair was surrounded with violence. The I.W.W. was quite active in the organizing work and in publicizing the deplorable working conditions in the mines. As a result they were subjected to much oppression. More than one "Wobbly” was killed in this struggle.

General defense meetings were held by the I.W.W. throughout the country to call the public's attention to this situation as well as to raise funds to help the men on trial. Many contributions were received from the various I.W.W. Branches.

Organization work in 1932 was strong at Boulder Dam, in the Colorado mines, at Lake Cle Elum and among agricultural workers.

At Boulder Dam the I.W.W. concentrated on efforts to improve working conditions. They fought for the six hour day, for stricter enforcement of the safety laws, the improvement of safety laws, for better food and a comfortable lunch room, for recreation facilities, better transportation to the job and abolition of the blacklist system. They were violently opposed. "Wobblies” were frequently deported from the reservation and were occasionally arrested for distributing copjlea of Industrial Worker. The city manager of Boulder City seemed to have difficulty in making up his mind whether he should issue a permit for the sale of Industrial Worker or not. More than once the permit would be issued and then revoked.4

In Colorado well attended meetings of the I.W.W. coal miners were held to discuss strengthening the organization in that area. The meetings were at Erie, Lafayette, Louisville and Frederick, Colorado. In addition to bringing about general improvement in working conditions in the Colorado mines, the I.W.W. was able to obtain recognition of checkweighmen elected by the workers at the Crown mine at Lousiville and at the Baum mine at Dacona.

At Lake Cle Elum, near Ronald, Washington, I.W.W. construction workers werking for the Laher Company were able to secure better sanitary facilities. There was a short and successful strike on this job in 1932 due to alleged discrimination against I.W.W. members in regard to terminations.5

In addition to the Laher Company, Baum & Ridge Co. and Winston Bros. were also involved in these difficulties. On Sept. 26 workers of Laher Co. and Baum and Ridge went on strike under the banner of the I.W.W. for a raise in pay and for inclusion of "walking time” in the eight-hour work day. It took almost an hour to walk from their camp to the place of work.

When the job started the rate of pay was thirty cents an hour with one dollar and thirty-five cents deducted for board. On May 6, the strikers had previously won an increase of ten dents an hour, a five cent reduction in board, and pay for walking time one way. As a result of the strike on Sept. 26, the workers received a raise in pay to fifty cents an hour, and an agreement that "walking time” should be paid for as time worked.

These strikes were bitterly opposed by the companies involved, although no extreme physical violence occurred. However, there were the usual threats of sending in the militia and of tar-and-feather parties for the organizers. Management tried to get rid of the I.W.W. by hiring non-members after the customary lay-off during the “fire-prevention" season. The union successfully opposed this technique.

In 1932 the I.W.W. put forth considerable effort toward organizing the unemployed. It was their intention to set up a union for the unemployed in as many parts of the country as possible. Dues were to be as low as possible; no official was to draw wages; transfer into the various industrial unions was to be facilitated. In order to stimulate the organization of the unemployed, street meetings were held in the larger cities at which prominent I.W.W.s spoke on the evils of the capitalistic system. At this time also the I.W.W. occasionally advocated the General Strike. For instance, the March 22 issue of the Industrial Worker carried a full page two column exhortation which can be summed up in the following sentence extracted from the article:

The I.W.W. calls upon all workers in America to prepare and carry out a GENERAL STRIKE IN ALL INDUSTRIES. tI article also included these statements: ttprepare now for General Strike. Carry the slogan until the nation rings The one answer to bourgeois tyranny that they fear and cannot defeat.

The article also included these statements: “prepare now for General Strike. Carry the slogan until the nation rings with it. The one answer to bourgeois tyranny that they fear and cannot defeat."

Several conventions were held in 1932. I.U. 110, the Agricultural Workers' Union, met at Alva, Oklahoma in June and at Ellsworth, Kansas in July. The General Recruiting Union met in Chicago and Detroit, the Canadian branch met at Port Arthur, and finally the twentieth General Convention was held in Chicago for seven days beginning on Nov. 14. At the General Convention consideration was given to stimulating the organization and education of the members; to pioneering for the four-hour work day; to ettering the condition of the unemployed; to cooperation with the International Workman's Association; and, to stimulating interest in the organization of the Junior Wobblies Union, as well as in the Work Peoples College at Duluth, Minnesota. This college was managed by the I.W.W. and friends from 1916 to 1940.6

  • 1Industrial Worker 8/30/1932
  • 2Ibid 1/12/1932, 4/5/1932
  • 3Ibid 4/5/1932, 4/26/1932, 6/7/1932
  • 4Ibid 1/12/1932, 4/5/1932, 8/30/1932, 9/20/1932
  • 5Ibid 6/14/1932
  • 6Ibid 10/11/1932